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Deadly Pesticide Endosulfan Banned

Following years of work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Environmental Protection Agency last week finally published plans to phase out and ban endosulfan, a highly toxic insecticide that has threatened rare wildlife -- and human health -- for decades. The DDT-era poison is used on crops and is a pervasive pollutant of waterways that has been linked to disruption of endocrine systems, reproductive disorders and other severe health problems in humans. Endosulfan jeopardizes numerous endangered species in aquatic and terrestrial environments, including the Wyoming toad, piping plover, wood stork and many protected fishes and mussels. As far back as 1989, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife recognized the threat endosulfan poses to endangered species, and the wildlife agency recommended banning it in 2002. But instead, the Bush administration allowed its continued use. The EPA's new plan reverses that decision, so that most endosulfan crop uses will end in two years and all uses will be phased out by 2016.

The Center has filed several lawsuits to force assessment of endosulfan's impacts on endangered species in California and prohibit use of the chemical within sensitive habitats. In 2006, we reached a landmark agreement with the EPA to restrict use of endosulfan and 65 other toxic pesticides in California red-legged frog habitats, and this year we won another settlement restricting use of endosulfan and 73 other pesticides in habitat for endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read more in E – The Environmental Magazine.

Center Intervenes in Suit to Protect Mexican Wolves

The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife last Friday intervened in a lawsuit to protect two packs of Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico. The lawsuit was filed by two counties (one far from the recovery area), three ranches with grazing privileges on the Gila National Forest and two livestock industry associations. The suit is opposing 2008 and 2009 decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to spare the lives of the San Mateo and Middle Fork wolf packs after they preyed on cattle. Even though the cattle owners were compensated, the lawsuit seeks to compel the Service to trap or shoot wolves from those packs. But the Mexican gray wolf population doesn't need any more damage. Government agents have already shot 11 wolves, inadvertently killed 18 others as a consequence of capture and relegated dozens more to captivity. This livestock industry suit is the third of its kind since Mexican wolves were reintroduced to the wild in 1998.

"This lawsuit, like the previous anti-wolf suits that were dismissed, is without merit," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "But that doesn't mean that the threat isn't real. The Mexican wolf can ill afford further delay in management reforms and development of a science-based recovery plan." After a petition and lawsuit, the Center recently won a federal determination that the Mexican wolf may deserve special Endangered Species Act protection (separate from its current protection along with gray wolves nationwide), which would prompt just such a recovery plan and management reforms.

Read more in the Silver City Daily Press.

Bluefin Tuna's Future on the Line -- Take Action

Global representatives gather in Paris this week to determine the fate of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a remarkable ocean species that's struggling to survive. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas is meeting to agree on conservation recommendations for this ocean predator and to set "catch quotas," the numbers of these imperiled fish that can legally be caught. In past years, the commission has failed to control rampant illegal fishing or even properly count how many tuna are fished -- and all the while Atlantic bluefin tuna populations have fallen more than 80 percent since 1970. Given the high value of tuna on the sushi market -- a single tuna sold for $177,000 in a Japanese market this year -- the commission probably won't do what's needed to recover the species.

After the BP oil spill further damaged bluefin with its impacts in the Gulf of Mexico -- one of only two known Atlantic bluefin spawning grounds -- the Center for Biological Diversity in May petitioned to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act. Federal protection may be the Atlantic bluefin's last hope.

Read more in The New York Times and take action now to voice your support for protecting Atlantic bluefin tuna.

EPA Urges Action on Ocean Acidification

Following a landmark lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Protection Agency is now taking action to protect sea life from ocean acidification. The agency this week came out with a new recommendation that states start identifying coastal waters impaired by this growing threat. When oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they become more acidic, hurting marine ecosystems because corrosive waters prevent ocean creatures (like shellfish and corals) from building the protective shells they need to survive. Already, acidification's impacts are apparent. Some corals are growing more slowly and will soon be eroding faster than they can grow, while oysters in the Pacific Northwest have been failing to reproduce for the past six years straight.

The EPA took action following the Center's first-of-its-kind lawsuit in 2009 to address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. The EPA is now urging states to identify waters impaired by ocean acidification, gather data on the threat and develop ways to measure its devastating impacts. Once waters are deemed impaired, the Act requires steps to halt the pollution impairing them (in this case, CO2). "Our suit used the full capacity of the Clean Water Act to tackle an acute environmental problem," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "Our innovative legal theory got the EPA's attention -- and has stimulated meaningful action."

Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Jaguar Habitat Protection Delayed, Again

Jaguars have been waiting decades for on-the-ground legal protection, and now it looks like they'll have to wait even longer. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that its proposal to create critical habitat for the jaguar, once scheduled for January 2011, is being postponed until spring 2012. The move is long overdue. When the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, the jaguar was protected as endangered south of the border, but not in the United States. It seemed that the Fish and Wildlife Service, after having shot and poisoned all the jaguars it could locate in this country over half a century, had forgotten that the big cats were native. In 1979, the Service admitted that not protecting jaguars domestically was an "oversight" and pledged to rectify that promptly. But it wasn't until 18 years later, as a result of a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, that the jaguar was finally deemed endangered in the United States. That should have resulted in federally protected "critical habitat" for the species, but it took another three Center lawsuits and a final definitive ruling in 2009 before the Service agreed it would propose critical habitat in 2011.

The latest delay only increases the risk to the jaguar. While it waits for critical habitat to be designated, new subdivisions and open-pit mines are scarring the Southwest, including in prime jaguar habitat, and the clamor to authorize construction of new sections of the border wall -- which will keep out jaguars -- is likely to grow. The Center has identified 53 million acres that need critical habitat protection for jaguar recovery.

Read more in Scientific American's account of the new delay.

Center to Sue for Rare Kangaroo Rat

This week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies formally notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers we'll sue over their approval of a massive water development in habitat for California's San Bernardino kangaroo rat. The long-tailed, large-footed mammal is already highly endangered by habitat destruction from mining, development and other threats, and the new water project -- proposed for the San Jacinto River channel in Riverside County -- would take place in the heart of one of the kangaroo rat's three remaining home bases, severely harming the high-hopping little creature.

"Instead of protecting the few populations that remain, the federal agencies authorized further destruction of prime San Bernardino kangaroo rat habitat," said John Buse, senior attorney at the Center. "There aren't many suitable areas left for the kangaroo rat, and this project will leave even fewer options for bringing the species back from the brink of extinction."

Check out our press release and learn more about the San Bernardino kangaroo rat.

Coal Ash Kills Wildlife -- One More Day to Help

Burning coal for electricity generates more than 130 million tons of toxic waste, called coal ash, every single year. This waste -- comprised of arsenic, lead, mercury and other deadly chemicals -- causes cancer and neurological damage in both wildlife and humans. Yet there are about 2,000 coal-ash dump sites across the nation, many of which are unregulated and hundreds of which are known to be poisoning wildlife and drinking-water supplies.

Under pressure from the coal industry, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering officially labeling coal ash as a mere household garbage, so Big Coal can continue dumping it as it pleases. There's only one more day to submit a comment to the EPA asking the agency to treat coal ash as a hazardous waste and protect people and endangered species from this poisonous contaminant.

Take action by Friday, November 19.

Report: Overpopulation Threatens Living Planet

As the human population closes in on 7 billion, plants and animals around the globe continue to struggle for survival. A new analysis finds that humanity's demands for food, water and other resources are more than the planet can sustain -- and a steep price is already being paid. The World Wildlife Fund, in collaboration with the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London, says in its 2010 Living Planet Report that among 8,000 populations of 2,500 species surveyed, there's been a 30 percent decline in the last four decades. It's even worse in the tropics. The report makes it clear why this is happening: Human demands on natural resources have doubled since 1966. Our population has nearly doubled since then, too.

The report highlights the connection between high-consumption nations and loss of biodiversity in low-income tropical areas. As the sponsors put it, "The developed world is living in a false paradise, fueled by excessive consumption and high carbon emissions."

That connection between species loss and unsustainable human population growth is the reason why the Center for Biological Diversity started its campaign to raise awareness about overpopulation -- and why it needs to be part of the world's conservation conversation.

Read more in ScienceDaily and learn more about the Center’s overpopulation campaign.

Biodiversity Briefing: Protecting 251 Species

Thousands of species in the United States -- from elk and river otters to orchids and frogs -- have already been pushed to extinction by habitat destruction, pollution, mining, shooting and voracious overconsumption. But rather than rally to protect species, the federal government is refusing to help hundreds of plants and animals it knows are on the path to extinction. Instead, the Department of the Interior has placed 251 species on a "candidate" list for protections, where they're likely to linger for years without help. Many have already been waiting for decades, including the Montana fluvial Arctic grayling, a near-extinct purple-silver fish; and the Pacific fisher, a fierce but highly imperiled forest mammal that survives in only three small, isolated populations along the West Coast.

In the most recent installment of the Center for Biological Diversity's quarterly "Biodiversity Briefing" series, Executive Director Kierán Suckling spoke about our ambitious campaign to earn protection for all 251 "candidate" species. We want all of these plants and animals placed on the endangered species list immediately -- because that's the only way that killing them becomes illegal and the only way to save their habitat from logging, bulldozing and other destructive actions. And with the Center's unique combination of science, law, activism and member support we'll win them protection.

We invite you to listen to a recording of the
first part of the briefing and then find out more about our Candidate Project. For information on how you can join the Center's Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, email Major Gifts Associate Julie Ragland or call her at (520) 623-5252 x 304.

What's the Speed of One Cat Lapping?

Cats drink water faster than the human eye can follow -- and more ingeniously than ever imagined, new research reveals. Inspired by the artful lapping of an MIT professor's pet cat, a team of engineers recently found that a cat's drinking method depends on its instinctive ability to calculate the exact point at which the tip of its tongue must curl to prevent water from falling off. Using a robot that mimicked the movements of a cat's tongue, the team proved that tongue-curling action happens an astonishing four times per second for a domestic cat. The engineer team also worked out a mathematical formula to determine the water-lapping speed of any feline, large or small: the weight of the cat species raised to the power of -1/6 and multiplied by 4.6. When this equation was tested on big cats at a zoo, the lapping velocity of lions, leopards, jaguars and ocelots measured up.

So how fast does, say, a large endangered jaguar drink water? We'll leave it up to you and your graphing calculator to figure that out.

Get more and watch a video of "The Biomechanics of Feline Water Uptake" in this New York Times article.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California red-legged frog; piping plover (c) Sydney Maddock; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; Atlantic bluefin tuna (c) Paul Colley; coral reef courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Linda Wade; jaguar courtesy Flickr/tangywolf; San Bernardino kangaroo rat (c) Lloyd Glenn Ingles, California Academy of Sciences; Kingston coal ash flood by Dot Griffith; Solanum conocarpum by Robin Cooley; Pacific fisher courtesy Pacific Biodiversity Institute; cat drinking courtesy Flickr/Swaminathan.

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